February 2006

Blue Rodeo - Are You Ready
Rounder 11661-3251-2
Format: CD
Released: 2005

by David J. Cantor

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

Keelor/Cuddy are Greg Keelor and Jim Cuddy, who wrote all 12 of the songs on Are You Ready, along with singing and playing guitar and piano on the disc. They re-energize rock techniques of past decades with versatility, straightforwardness, and an ability to flaunt their influences without copying them. This successful Canadian band’s musicality shines. No wonder it has sold millions of albums. Engaging harmonies -- sometimes Beatles-like, sometimes Jackson Browne-like -- are not overused but reliably enter and exit at thoughtfully chosen moments. Though "soft" most of the time, here and there a bass riff recalls early Elvis Costello & The Attractions, or a heavy-metal jam drops in. The band smartly keeps the tempo up nearly all the time. Drummer Glenn Milchem and Bazil Donovan on bass keep the listener hooked on catchy rhythms.

Though just about every tune offers something special, I especially like "Rena." It has the most ambitious lyrics, giving the band’s constant love theme interesting context.

There’s a world of hate and sorrow out there standing in your way
There’s a load of compromise before you die
And each time you step forward you get burned a little bit
No longer know the way to say goodbye…

Love is a songwriter’s’ all-time favorite topic, but this song is a social and political statement, too. Because Blue Rodeo is so good and well liked, I would like to know more about its world -- to see it communicate more.